Jeremiah 21:9
He that stays in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goes out, and falls to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be to him for a prey.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) And falleth to the Chaldeans.—The words must have seemed to the messengers to counsel treachery and desertion, and were remembered against the prophet in the taunt of Jeremiah 37:13. They were, however, acted on by not a few (Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 52:15).

His life shall be unto him for a prey.—The phrase is characteristic of Jeremiah, and forcibly illustrates the misery of the time. Life itself was not a secure possession, but as the spoil which a man seizes on the field of battle, and with which he hastens away, lest another should deprive him of it. It occurs again in Jeremiah 39:18; Jeremiah 45:5.

21:1-10 When the siege had begun, Zedekiah sent to ask of Jeremiah respecting the event. In times of distress and danger, men often seek those to counsel and pray for them, whom, at other times, they despise and oppose; but they only seek deliverance from punishment. When professors continue in disobedience, presuming upon outward privileges, let them be told that the Lord will prosper his open enemies against them. As the king and his princes would not surrender, the people are exhorted to do so. No sinner on earth is left without a Refuge, who really desires one; but the way of life is humbling, it requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties.He that ... falleth to the Chaldeans - This was to counsel desertion, and would have been treason in an ordinary man: but the prophets Spoke with an authority above that even of the king, and constantly interfered in political matters with summary decisiveness. Compare Matthew 24:16-18.

A prey - Something not a man's own, upon which he seizes in the midst of danger, and hurries away with it. So must the Jews hurry away with their lives as something more than they had a right to, and place them in the Chaldaean camp as in a place of safety.

9. (Jer 38:2, 17, 18).

falleth to—deserts to.

life … a prey—proverbial, to make one's escape with life, like a valuable spoil or prey that one carries off; the narrowness of the escape, and the joy felt at it, are included in the idea (Jer 39:18).

But certainly, if ever any man spake high treason, this prophet now did it, when there was an enemy besieging them, telling them, that if they would save their lives, they must revolt from their king, and join with their enemies. All that can be said in excuse for the prophet is, that this was a Divine revelation to him, and a message sent to the king himself.

His life shall be given him for a prey, appeareth to have been a proverbial expression, either signifying.

1. A man’s possession of his life, as a prey or booty recovered from death, or the hand of the enemy; or,

2. A man’s rejoicing in the saving of his life, as if he had got some notable booty. He that abideth in this city,.... Imagining himself safe there; not fearing its being taken by the king of Babylon; though it was so often foretold by the prophet of the Lord that it should:

shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: by the first of these, in sallying out against the enemy; and by the other two, which raged within the city:

but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you,

he shall live; not fall upon them, as the words may be literally rendered; so it would describe such that went out of the city and sallied upon them; whereas it designs such who should go out of the city, and surrender themselves unto the Chaldeans; submit to them, so as to obey them, as the Targum adds; such shall have their lives spared:

and his life shall be unto him for a prey; it shall be like a spoil or booty taken out of an enemy's hands; it shall be with difficulty obtained, and with joy possessed, as a prey or spoil is.

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be to him for a {e} prize.

(e) As a thing recovered from extreme danger, Jer 37:2,39:18,45:5.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. for a prey] something snatched up hurriedly and borne away with him rather than his secure possession. For the phrase cp. Jeremiah 38:2, Jeremiah 39:18, Jeremiah 45:5.Verse 9. - He that abideth in this city, etc. No doubt Jeremiah often gave this counsel to his fellow-citizens (comp. Jeremiah 38:1, 17), and it appears from Jeremiah 38:19; Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 52:15, that many of the Jews acted in accordance with it. Falleth; more distinctly, falleth away (as Jeremiah 37:14, Authorized Version); i.e. goeth over to. The Lord's reply through Jeremiah consists of three parts: a. The answer to the king's hope that the Lord will save Jerusalem from the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 21:4-7); b. The counsel given to the people and the royal family as to how they may avert ruin (Jeremiah 21:8-12); c. The prediction that Jerusalem will be punished for her sins (Jeremiah 21:13 and Jeremiah 21:14).

Jeremiah 21:3-6

The answer. - Jeremiah 21:3. "And Jeremiah said to them: Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Jeremiah 21:4. Thus hath Jahveh the God of Israel said: Behold, I turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and gather them together into the midst of this city. Jeremiah 21:5. And I fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, and with anger and fury and great wrath, Jeremiah 21:6. And smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; of a great plague they shall die. Jeremiah 21:7. And afterward, saith Jahveh, I will give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his servants, and the people - namely, such as in this city are left of the plague, of the sword, and of the famine - into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek after their life, that he may smite them according to the sharpness of the sword, not spare them, neither have pity nor mercy." This answer is intended to disabuse the king and his servants of all hope of help from God. So far from saving them from the Chaldeans, God will fight against them, will drive back into the city its defenders that are still holding out without the walls against the enemy; consume the inhabitants by sword, pestilence, famine; deliver the king, with his servants and all that survive inside the lines of the besiegers, into the hand of the latter, and unsparingly cause them to be put to death. "I make the weapons of war turn back" is carried on and explained by "I gather them into the city." The sense is: I will bring it about that ye, who still fight without the walls against the beleaguerers, must turn back with your weapons and retreat into the city. "Without the walls" is not to be joined to מסב, because this is too remote, and מחוּץ is by usage locative, not ablative. It should go with "wherewith ye fight," etc.: wherewith ye fight without the walls against the beleaguering enemies. The siege had but just begun, so that the Jews were still trying to hinder the enemy from taking possession of stronger positions and from a closer blockade of the city. In this they will not succeed, but their weapons will be thrust back into the city.

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